FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Jets head into the NFL draft with several needs and plenty of picks.
General manager John Idzik also has loads of options with the No. 18 selection.
Wide receiver? Cornerback? Tight end? Trade up, or down? Well, it’s anyone’s guess — the Jets included — right now. But with the depth of this year’s rookie class and currently holding a whopping 12 selections, New York will likely be able to add a few impact players.
“We’ll go in open-minded,” Idzik said. “The nice thing about having 12 picks is it does give you flexibility and maneuverability within the draft.”
Since taking over as GM last year, Idzik has preached a philosophy of building through the draft. And the 12 picks are just one less than the 13 the Jets had in coach Rex Ryan’s first three years from 2009-11 combined.
Idzik took a deliberate but frugal approach to free agency, still landing perhaps the top three players available at their positions in quarterback Michael Vick, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. Despite not being the active spenders many fans hoped the Jets would be, that perception won’t affect the Jets’ draft-day approach.
“We view the draft, again, as a talent-based operation,” Idzik said. “We’re just going to go after the best players for our organization, so I don’t know that there’s any more pressure based on what transpired or what may not have transpired in free agency.”
Here are five things to know about the Jets heading into the draft:
PLETHORA OF PICKS: Having loads of draft selections doesn’t always translate into long-term success.
With 12 picks, four of which are compensatory, the Jets have their most since having 10 in 2006. They also had 10 picks in 2004, but haven’t had as many as 12 since 1998, when their first selection came in the second round with defensive end Dorian Boose.
Of those 12 players, only fourth-round tackle Jason Fabini became a regular starter for the Jets. Only one player other than Fabini, third-round safety Kevin Williams, started more than one game in New York. Oh, and five of those selections never played for the Jets in a regular-season game.
STAYING PUT?: Despite all those picks, there’s certainly a chance the Jets won’t keep them all.
They might not even stay in the 18th spot, if the right opportunity to trade up — maybe to get a Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans — comes along. That spot in the draft has produced some decent talent in recent years, including Chad Pennington (2000), Calvin Pace (2003), Joe Flacco (2008) and Maurkice Pouncey (2010), but generally very few Pro Bowl-type players have come at No. 18.
“We feel if we stay at 18 that we’ll have the ability to select a good player, somebody that can come in and help us win,” senior personnel executive Terry Bradway said.
TARGETING NEW TARGETS: Whether it’s Geno Smith or Michael Vick under center this season, the Jets addressed the wide receiver position in free agency by bringing in Decker, who immediately upgrades the group after two huge years catching passes from Peyton Manning in Denver. But there’s still room to improve.
While Watkins and Evans are expected to be long gone by No. 18, the Jets might have a tough decision between LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Southern California’s Marqise Lee or Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
ANOTHER CORNER?: Yes, the Jets took a cornerback with their first-round pick last year in Dee Milliner. But it could happen again, because the Jets might need another top-notch player at the position.
After releasing Antonio Cromartie, Milliner became the de facto No. 1 cornerback. The current options to start opposite him are free agent signee Dimitri Patterson, and Kyle Wilson, the team’s top pick in 2010, who might be better suited as nickel backs.
It wouldn’t be a shocker if the Jets jumped on Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, TCU’s Jason Verrett, or Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller at No. 18.
Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum was a guest on WFAN with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday morning, and said though the Jets appear to need a corner to replace the departed Antonio Cromartie, it’s not a given they’ll go in that direction in the first round. That’s because Ryan, though thought of as a coach that loves corners, is really a coach who adapts to the situation at hand.
“He’s a problem-solver by nature and he loves the challenge,” Tannenbaum said of Ryan. “One of things early on when I knew we made the right decision in hiring Rex is he’ll take whoever he has. We had this guy Ahmad Carroll who had a very up-and-down career, kind of a backup player. He was a first-round pick. Rex was always focusing on what he can do. And it turns out Carroll was a guy who could blitz very well. I remember spending a lot of time with Rex that first spring and he was working on Ahmad Carroll blitz packages, which I think is a real insight into what kind of coach Rex is.”
So, in other words, Tannenbaum said anyone who thinks they can pin Ryan’s thought process down really doesn’t know much about this coach.
“Whoever he has on opening day, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, whoever it may be at corner, he will put them in the best position to be successful. Look, if has to blitz less because he’s not confident in his corners, then he will, but there’s a reason Rex has coached at such a high level for a long time. And to do that in a salary cap system sometimes you have to be a problem-solver,” Tannenbaum said.
TIGHT SPOT: The Jets re-signed Jeff Cumberland in the offseason, and Ryan has raved about how he is developing into an all-around tight end.
But Zach Sudfeld, Chris Pantale and Konrad Reuland, coming off a knee injury, are the only other tight ends on the roster. So, if North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is available, the Jets could opt for perhaps the top-rated tight end in the draft. If not, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro or Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be possibilities in the second round.
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